From: Magna Legal Services
By: Peter Hecht
The jury selection process is an intriguing — and high stakes — venture into the subtle terrain of human nature. As you meet and interview all members of your venire, you’ll primarily be looking for reasons to de-select the individuals who bring a bias that will run against your case. Here are five factors that you should explore in the course of empaneling the most effective jury for your case.
1. Relevant Life Experiences
In selecting (or de-selecting) a potential juror, one important element to consider is the person’s previous life experience as it relates to the case at hand. For example, if a juror has ever been the victim of a robbery, they’re likely to harbor strong emotional memories of that event. If they were seated in a case trying someone on a robbery charge, it would be difficult for them to be unbiased. However, the relevance of any specific life experience can be very subtle, and the voir dire process must seek to uncover unconscious biases that may influence a juror’s ability to be impartial.
In a case involving negligence that harmed an older person, for example, a juror who was raised by a grandmother might harbor certain biases without even being aware of it. A wide-ranging voir dire conversation should range over such topics as personal relationships, childhood experiences, and future plans, as well as the more obvious areas that specifically pertain to issues of the case. Jurors’ life experience, and the common sense that it can instill, is a positive quality — but only if it’s free of specific events that somehow trigger an emotional reaction to your case.